Najib: Japan can help Malaysia transform

TOKYO - MALAYSIA and Japan yesterday undertook a commitment to boost bilateral relations as part of the second wave of the 30-year-old Look East Policy (LEP).

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the second wave would be driven by shifting the focus of Japanese investment to high-value technology that could capitalise on Malaysia's transformation into a developed nation.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, Najib said greater emphasis would be placed on strengthening several key areas by riding on Japan's position as the biggest investor in Malaysia.

"They (the investors) should leverage on their strength in the areas of green technology and renewable energy, waste disposal and small- and medium-enterprises," he said after a bilateral meeting at Abe's official residence in Nagata-cho here.

Japan's investments in the manufacturing industry alone was US$22.2 billion (S$27.9) last year. It currently has 1,400 companies operating here.

Najib, who announced the framework for a renewed policy thrust in October last year, said the international trade and industry ministry would lead efforts under the second wave of the LEP.

The ministry, he said, would offer customised incentives to investors based on endorsements from the economic councils and Malaysia Investment Development Authority. Najib said the economic transformation and liberalisation in Malaysia had attracted companies from Japan to invest in areas such as high technology, green technology and hybrid car industry, as well as the service sector.

He said internationally-recognised Japanese companies specialising in coal-fire and high-speed railway technology could participate in future infrastructure developments in Malaysia through an open bidding system. He announced the interest of three Japanese companies in the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail link project that would shorten travelling time between the two cities to 90 minutes.

This, he said, was conveyed by the top executives of Mitsui Co Ltd, Sumitomo Corp and Toshiba Corp during his meeting with captains of the industry here yesterday.

"All of them are interested in taking part in the project. They can participate in the international bidding process."

Najib said the project was being studied and required consent from Singapore.

"It will attract a lot of interest, including from China and Europe," he said, adding that Malaysian companies could also participate through partnerships with foreign companies that had expertise in the industry.

Earlier yesterday, Najib tweeted that the proposed high-speed rail link project would be finalised next year. In February, Najib and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, announced the 330km project, costing US$12 billion and projected for completion by 2020.

On other areas of cooperation, Najib welcomed Abe's intention to increase the number of scholarships for ASEAN students to study at the Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology in Kuala Lumpur, as it would help turn the institution into a hub for technology education in the region.

"Malaysia also supports Japan's intention to increase training with Malaysian maritime agencies and the use of the ASEAN Defence Ministerial Meeting as a platform to discuss future security matters."

Abe said Japan would continue to help Malaysia in its effort to become an advanced country by 2020, saying the foundation of the bilateral relationship between the two countries was based on "a multilayer of ties and bonds of friendship" developed under the LEP.

"We need to establish a framework for the second wave of the LEP that Malaysia is pursuing," he said, adding that he exchanged views with Najib on the regional situation, as Malaysia would assume ASEAN chairmanship in 2015.

Meanwhile, when launching the 1M4U outreach centre last night, Najib urged the youth to give back to society, including through volunteerism initiatives.

"For a nation to develop, it takes more than just being knowledgeable. Society has to have a positive mindset and good values."